By MIKE CHAIKEN
Mat Franco had not even reached an age in double-digit years when magic first came into his life.
The winner of “America’s Got Talent” said in a phone interview from Las Vegas that he saw his first magic performance on television when he was just 9 years old.
“It sucked me in,” he explained.
Franco, who is coming to the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Dec. 9, said he subsequently asked his parents to get him some magic kit. Within that magic kit, he said he had some basic tricks such as a shrinking magic wand and a ball in a vase.
He diligently worked out the tricks than performed during Show-and-Tell at his school.
From there, a career in magic was born.
Watching clips of Franco perform, you immediately see that his approach to magic is different than many other purveyors of the performing art. He is personable and very much like the guy next door when he takes the stage and works his craft.
“We’ve all seen mystical and mysterious,” said Franco of other magicians through the years. “But it’s not my personality.”
On his way up through the performance ranks, Franco said he tried different approaches to his on-stage persona. And nothing really fit.
He said he eventually decided, “The best way to express myself is be myself. A happy go-lucky guy.”
“I’m not trying to fool audiences. I’m not trying to trick them. I’m not trying to scare them,” said Franco. “I’m trying to have fun with them.”
“I want more of an immersive environment… where we’re experiencing (the magic) together,” said Franco.
Asked about his magiciani influences, Franco said he admires the late magician Doug Henning. Henning, with his long hair, big moustache, and friendly demeanor came to fame in the 1970s. He was a favorite on talk shows and had several hit prime time specials who was a regular on talk shows and prime time specials in that time frame.
Some magicians have trademark tricks, like Houdini being suspended upside down in water while being handcuffed and chained.
Although not quite as dramatic, Franco said he has some tricks that have become fan favorites.
Franco said being a magician in some ways is like being a musician. When you come to town to perform live, audiences typically want to see your “greatest hits.” And like a musician, he has certain tricks he feels he must perform.
“I’ve been lucky enough to continue to do enough enough television where there’s fan favorites,” said Franco and his stints in Las Vegas and captured on viral videos also have fueled some must-see tricks at each performance.
One popular trick is his ramen noodle trick that he invented right after college. (To see Franco perform it, watch one of his viral videos at https://youtu.be/N0r0n285lJ4).
But the show coming to Foxwoods is primarily all new, with fresh material and hopefully new hits.
“I like to borrow things and make them appear in random places,” said Franco of one theme among his fan favorites. “I like to make phones appear in the least expected places. “
When Franco comes to Foxwoods, it’s a homecoming of sorts. Franco grew up in neighboring Rhode Island. He said he also regularly attended magic shows at the casino when he was younger.
“A lot of my idols and big stars came through (Foxwoods),” said Franco.
To be able to share the stage they performed on, and to perform before some of his friends and family “is a really surreal experience,” said Franco.
And given the surroundings, Franco promised audiences, “I’m putting my all into (the performance).” When he steps on to the Foxwoods stage, Franco told audiences that they can “expect my brand of comedy and magic.. It’s interactive. We’re experiencing everything together.”
Magician Mat Franco, the winner of “America’s Got Talent,” performs at the Fox Theater, Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30.
For more information, go to Foxwoods.com or www.MatFranco.com